AUGUSTA, Maine — Two senior members of Gov. Paul LePage’s staff will not appear before a legislative watchdog committee investigating the governor’s role in coercing Good Will-Hinckley to rescind its employment of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, according to correspondence released Monday.

The notification comes in advance of an Oct. 15 hearing, during which the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee is scheduled to interview a range of witnesses about the events leading up to Eves’ ouster in June.

In a letter dated Monday, Cynthia Montgomery, LePage’s legal counsel, said neither she nor Senior Policy Advisor Aaron Chadbourne, who is alleged to have been a liaison between LePage and Good Will-Hinckley in the matter, would participate in the hearing.

Both cited a pending civil lawsuit Eves has filed against LePage in federal court as the reason. Chadbourne and Montgomery were the only governor’s office employees asked to appear before the committee. In her letter, however, Montgomery did say they would answer questions submitted in writing.

It was unclear Monday whether Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin, who also was asked to attend the hearing, will do so. Desjardin has been on medical leave since last month.

“We take each day as it comes for his healing,” said department spokeswoman Anne Gabbianelli on Monday.

In her letter, Montgomery defended the governor, saying LePage’s role in forcing Eves out at Good-Will Hinckley was diminished because the school opted to hire Eves over LePage’s objections to his qualifications. Furthermore, she wrote, the school fired Eves only after learning of a potential loss of grant funding from the Harold Alfond Foundation.

“The report further makes clear that no one in the governor’s office, including the governor himself, had anything to do with [the foundation’s] decision-making in this regard,” wrote Montgomery. “I highlight these facts to show that Mr. Chadbourne’s and my absence from the Oct. 15 GOC meeting will likely have a minimal impact on the GOC’s ability to wrap up its inquiry.”

Democrats and at least one Republican senator reacted critically to the Montgomery letter.

Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, an attorney, acknowledged that neither Montgomery nor Chadbourne are under legal obligation to testify before the committee.

“However, since neither is a party to the pending litigation, it is disappointing that they are unwilling to help us get all the facts out into the light for everyone to see,” said Katz, who is co-chairman of the Government Oversight Committee. “Transparency ought to be everyone’s goal”

Rep. Chuck Kruger, D-Thomaston, House chairman of the committee, said the integrity of Maine’s political system is at stake, while Democratic Sen. Bill Diamond of Windham called Montgomery’s announcement “unacceptable.”

“Gov. LePage promised Maine its most transparent administration in history, but he keeps standing in the way of this investigation, preventing taxpayer-funded staff from cooperating, as though the people of our state don’t deserve answers to the questions about the abuse of public office and taxpayer dollars,” said Kruger.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.